30 April 2016

AUS: Five Powers exercise concludes in Malaysia and Singapore

Australian Defence Force personnel have completed the annual Exercise Bersama Shield in Malaysia, Singapore and the South China Sea.

The multilateral training activity is part of a long-running series of exercises aimed at enhancing the interoperability of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) members – Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Commander of the Australian Contingent, Wing Commander Paul Webb said the exercise was very rewarding.

“Exercise Bersama Shield 16 tested the ability of FPDA nations to work together to complete missions and objectives, and they’ve done that very well,” he said.

“Through this cooperation, we’ve built on existing friendships and strengthened our habits of collaboration. We look forward to continuing the relationship with our FPDA partners during Exercise Bersama Lima later this year.”

USA: U.S., Australian Defence Forces Conduct Fleet Synthetic Training

By MC3 Sara B. Sexton, Task Force 70 Public Affairs

Operations Specialist 3rd Class Dontre Posey serves as the assistant battle watch captain in the Task Force 70 Tactical Flag Command Center during a joint Fleet Synthetic Training exercise. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Sara B. Sexton) >>

YOKOSUKA, Japan - Commander, Task Force 70 units, along with Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 units, Army and Air Force assets and units from the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) participated in Fleet Synthetic Training-Joint (FST-J) exercise 16-72 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, and other command centers throughout Japan, Australia and the U.S. April 25-29.

FST-J is a computer-based synthetic training which allows geographically separated units to integrate in a tactically and operationally demanding virtual environment.

“This FST-J exercise is conducted according to 7th Fleet requirements to ensure the units are current on their training and certification,” said Capt. Richard Haidvogel, the commanding officer of Tactical Training Group, Pacific (TTGP). “Ultimately the goal of these exercises is to improve interoperability with our joint partners and allies.”

News Story: Carter - ‘Yes’ To Arms Sales To Vietnam; DoD Won’t Elaborate

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

WASHINGTON: One word from Defense Secretary Ash Carter yesterday opened the door to US arms sales to Vietnam, a former enemy turned potential ally against a rising China. The administration has tiptoed towards easing the ban on lethal weapons sales ever since Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang met with Obama in 2013, but Carter’s statement goes farther at a critical time, on the eve of Obama’s first visit to Vietnam.

It was an exchange so brief and muted I had to listen to the audio half-a-dozen times and check with sources before I could believe Carter had really said something so momentous, yet apparently so casually. At yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan showed a map revealing how Chinese fighters could potentially strike throughout the South China Sea, the northern Philippines, and Vietnam. SASC chairman John McCain — a former prisoner of war in Hanoi turned advocate of reconciliation — followed up with this question to Carter: “You would support lifting restrictions on provision of weapons to the Vietnamese?”

Carter’s response? “We’ve discussed this in the past, and I appreciate your leadership in that regard, Chairman, and yes.”

That final “yes” is the figurative bombshell that might let the US sell literal bombshells to Vietnam, which has fought multiple wars and skirmishes with its ancient enemy, China, since the US withdrawal in 1973.

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: UN Council considers response to N.Korea missile test

Image: Flickr User - FabienA380
The UN Security Council is weighing a response to North Korea's failed test-firing of ballistic missiles, diplomats said Thursday following emergency closed-door talks in New York.

The consultations were urgently requested by the United States following North Korea's unsuccessful launch of two missiles and as fears grow that the regime is preparing to conduct a fifth nuclear test.

"We are looking at a response," said China's Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds the council presidency this month.

Japanese Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said his government "condemns the series of grave and very clear violations of Security Council resolutions."

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: N. Korea registers multiple test failures with new missile - South

By Jung Ha-Won

North Korea on Thursday made two failed bids to test fire a powerful, new medium-range ballistic missile, in a thwarted display of military strength ahead of a landmark ruling party congress.

South Korea's defence ministry said an initial morning launch of what was understood to be a Musudan missile saw the rocket plunge back to earth seconds after take-off.

A second attempt in the evening -- again of a Musudan -- also appeared to have failed, a ministry official said.

North Korea has now made three unsuccessful bids in two weeks to test-fly a Musudan, which is capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

The first effort on April 15 -- the birthday of founding leader Kim Il-Sung -- ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure, with the missile apparently exploding just after take-off.

South Korean military officials say the North is desperate to register a successful launch ahead of next week's party congress, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: India asks UK to extradite British 'middleman' in chopper scam

EH101/AW-101 Merlin
India's government said Thursday it has asked Britain to extradite British consultant Christian Michel James over a scandal-hit deal the previous government agreed with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland to supply helicopters to Delhi.

India suspended the deal in 2013 after Italian investigators began looking into accusations AgustaWestland paid bribes to win the 556-million-euro ($753 million) contract for 12 helicopters intended for use by the prime minister and other VIPs.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has been seeking the custody of James -- one of 13 main accused in the case -- as a key intermediary who managed political parties and players in Italy and India.

"Yes, government of India has approached the government of the United Kingdom for extradition of Christian Michel to India in connection with the AgustaWestland helicopter scam," VK Singh, junior foreign minister, told parliament.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: Pakistan, China building JF-17B prototype

JF-17A Thunder
by Richard Tomkins

Pakistan and China have jointly started production of the first prototype JF-17B combat jet at the Chendu Aerospace Corporation facility in Chendu, China.

The induction for production of the two-seat aircraft took place Wednesday at a ceremony attended by senior Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials, the Pakistan Air Force reported.

The JF-17B will have a maximum speed of about 1,217 miles per hour, a combat radius of 840 miles and will carry both bombs and missiles. In addition to combat tasks, the plane can also be used for pilot training.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: Chinese officials under investigation for selling data - govt

Hundreds of employees at China's top statistics bureau are being investigated after selling data, the government said Wednesday, despite longstanding doubts over the reliability of official figures.

More than 300 NBS staff have also been asked to return 3.23 million yuan ($500,000) they made by selling annual reports and providing data to affiliates, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) -- the Communist party's internal corruption watchdog -- said on its website.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: China warns Southeast Asia over maritime dispute

China urged Southeast Asian nations on Thursday to resolve territorial disputes through dialogue and repeated a warning of "negative consequences" if the Philippines wins an arbitration case in The Hague.

Four ASEAN member states -- the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- have rival claims with China to parts of the South China Sea and tensions have mounted in recent years since China transformed contested reefs into artificial islands that can support military facilities.

The Philippines has taken a case against China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, where a ruling is due in the coming weeks, which many expect to go against China.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: China rebukes U.S. official's criticism on South China Sea arbitration

BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese spokesperson on Friday rebuked U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken's remarks on the impending "arbitration" of the South China Sea issue, saying the United States is in no position to criticize China.

On Thursday, Blinken told a House of Representatives hearing in Washington that China "can't have it both ways," by being a party to the convention but rejecting its provisions, including "the binding nature of any arbitration decision."

He was referring to a case brought by the Philippines to initiate compulsory arbitration proceedings with respect to "maritime jurisdiction" in the South China Sea.

"Regretfully, I have to say that Mr. Blinken may be misinformed about the essence of the South China Sea disputes and the content of the the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or he was wrongly labeling China deliberately," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.

China has repeatedly reiterated that it will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration initiated by the Philippines.

Hua said on Friday that the South China Sea issue is about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, adding that the Philippines was denying China's territorial sovereignty over some islands and reefs and maritime rights in the South China Sea.

Read the full story at Xinhua